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An Introduction to Utility Vegetation Management

Electric and pipeline utilities are charged with the responsibility of keeping energy flowing to businesses and homes. Our way of life is dependent on the safe and reliable distribution of power.

A very high voltage (69-765kV)electric transmission corridor. Courtesy of Arborchem

Electric power is produced at generating plants around the country. It travels across very high voltage transmission lines located on right-of-way corridors. These transmission lines feed smaller, high voltage distribution lines that run down our neighborhood streets and across the countryside bringing power to homes and businesses. Gas energy follows a similar journey.

A high voltage (typically 4-32.5kV)distribution line. Courtesy of ACRT

There are an estimated 11 million acres of pipeline and very high voltage electric transmission rights-of-way crisscrossing the United States and Canada. The high voltage distribution system is comprised of about 5 million miles of poles and lines. There are approximately 500 million trees on the distribution system alone. Finally, there are untold numbers of lower voltage secondary, street lighting and service lines making up the system. These generally pose a reduced risk and may or may not be part of a utility’s maintenance program.


The energy transmission and distribution system is enormous. The utility industry must maintain the brush, vines and trees on this system. It doesn’t do so because it wants to, but because it needs to for safety, reliability, and compliance with local, state, and federal laws and regulations.